Edward Heath Crouch.

A treasury of South African poetry and verse online

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A TREASURY OF
SOUTH AFRICAN
POETRY AND VERSE.



\ v^ O^i^^^K^- A^>^^^^-







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THOMAS PRINGLE

(BORN I78S; DIEIi 1834),
THE FATHER OF SOUTH AFRICAN POETRY.



A TREASURY OF

South African Poetry
and Verse

COLLECTED FROM VARIOUS
SOURCES AND ARRANGED BY

EDWARD HEATH CROUCH,

W
CAMBRIDGE, SOUTH AFRICA.




£ondon and feUing-on-Cync:

THE WALTER SCOTT PUBLLSHING CO., LTD.
NEW YORK: 3 EAST 14111 STREET.

J. C. JUTA & CO.,

CAPE TOWN, rOKT KIJZABETH, GKAHAMSTOWN, JOHANNESliUKG,
EAST LONDON, STELLENBOSCH, AND DURBAN (NATAI,).

1907.

^1^






TO MY WIFE,

WHOSE INTEREST, ENCOURAGEMENT, AND NICE CRITICAL

FACULTY HAVE HELPED ME NOT A LITTLE IN

COMPILING THIS SELECTION OF

SOUTH AFRICAN POEMS.



La Croix,

Cambridge,

Cape Colony,
1907.



CONTENTS,



Introduction



PAGE
XV



Perceval Gibbon —

The Voorloopers

Mimosa

The Veldt .

Voices of the Veldt

Komani

|im



W. E. Hunter —

The Nightingale ...
Written on Recovery from Sickness, 1906 ,
Margaret . . . .



II
15
19



K. J. T. Jefferson —

The River of Life .
The Harmonies of Waters
The ^'oices of Nature
On the Kalahari



20
23
25
29



"Rip van Winkle'"—

The Salt of the Earth
An Ocean Eremite
Holy Jamie's Pra3'er
A INIuseum Idyll



34

n

39
42



John Runcie—

A Slumber Song

Van Riebeck

Crossing the Hex Mountains

The Veldt Folk



50
53
56
59



CONTENTS.



F. C. Slater—

The Ilogsback Peak
In the Matoppos
In a Maize Field
"Lala, 'sana Lwam !
" 'Zani 'Nkonio" .
The Palace of Poesy
Love Vows



Herkert Price —

Sonnet : Flowers

Sonnet: Spring

Drought

Morning, 24th May

The Mountain Top

(Quatrains .

The First Dawn

IMoods

Fate

The Lion's Dream .



1905



W. C. SCULI.Y —

The Broken Mast .

The Nahoon

The Bushman's Cave

'Nkongane .

The Cattle Thief .

Namaqualand

The Summer- House

Song of the Seasons

Sleep's Threshold .

Song: A Red Rose

Sonnet

Good and Evil

Two Graves



Rev. H. II. DuGMORE—

The Funeral of Livingstone

England ....

A Sunrise Thought at " Cove Rock "

Thoughts suggested by a little Shell at Cov

Past and Present

The Ocean — Storm and Calm



Rock



CONTENTS.



Re\'. a. Vine Hall —

At. Kalk Bay

Thomas Pringle

The Spirit of the Summit

Two Decembers



I'AGE
122

126
129



F. C. KOLBE —

Coronation Ode
Table Mountain



131

134



Lance Fai.law —

The Spirit of Hidden Places

Day and Night Up-counlry

Old St. Thomas' Churchyard, Durban

Simon van der Stel

A Cape Homestead



135

i3«
140
142
145



Thomas Pringi.e-



The Emigrant's Farewell










147


Afar in the Desert .










149


The Caffer .










153


The Coranna










154


The Bushman










155


The Incantation










157


Makanna's Gathering










159


Evening Rambles .










161



William Rodger Thomson —

\ Good Hopje
The Poet

Cape of Good Hope
To a Sister .
Amakeya .



166
168
170
172
174



M. J. MacMahon—

Zourberg Mountains
The Lost Child



187
188



CONTENTS.



A. C. J"airlie —



PAGE

A Home by the Shore ..... 189

Sweet falls the Eve . .190

Chumie Fair ...... 191

Buffalo Banks ...... 192



G. E. Bulger —

Keiskamma . . . . -193

W. Selwyn —

The Cape of Good Hope . . " . . . 195

Herblrt Tucker —

Sunrise ....... 197

A Prayer for Rain . . ... 199

A Twilight Post ...... 202

The Three Kingdom.s ..... 204



"Mu"



The Forget-me-not ..... 207

The Voice ....... 208



G. Longmore —

Sonnets of the Cape ..... 210

E. B. Watermeyer —

After a Storm ...... 212

John Noble —

Lay me low ...... 213

"Kappa" —

Ideal Beauty ...... 215

Words ....... 216



CONTENTS.



T. McCali.—



P.\GE

Sonnet . . . . . .217



Ralph Renaude —

Sonnet ....... 218

Amy Sutherland —

The Digger's Song ..... 219

Anonymous —

The Briton's Homeland ..... 221



J. G.-



Empire Day ...... 224

In Memoriam ...... 227



J. R.-

Vasco da Gama ..... 229



T. W.—

Autumn Sunshine



235



J. S. JUDD—

May Morning, Natal ..... 237

John Fairkairn —

Memory ....... 238

" Thistle" —

To the Sea ....... 239



xii CONTENTS.

F. F.—

I'AGE

Lament of the Trek Ox . . . . . 241

Anonymous —

To Young South Africa .... 243
Marguerite ...... 249

Z.—

The Strength of Life ..... 251

" Omicron " —

De Profundis ...... 253

Answered ....... 255

CULLEN GOULDSBURY —

The Chief ....... 256

The Pace of the 0.\ ..... 258

Anoxy.mou.s —

Volkslied . . . . . . 260

Religious and Qietapb^csical poems.

Rev. a. Vine Ham, —

Follow the Light ...... 261

Lord of Angels ...... 263

Thomas Princ.i.e —

A Hymn ....... 264

Georc.e Kett —

A Hymn ....... 266



CONTENTS.



^ Mu "—

rA(;E
Thou hast His Care ..... 268

Life ....... 270



W. C. Scully—

The Prayer . . . . . .271



272



j. R. E.—

Ave Maria .....

J. P. Ritchie^

The Open Vision .... . . 274

Under the Red iVIast-Light . . - . 276

F. C. KOLBE —

Via Crucis, Via Lucis ..... 277



INTRODUCTION.

To make a selection of the best and most familiar
poetry any country has produced is, I conceive, a
desirable as well as pleasing- object; and to make a
selection of the verse — in many cases very scattered —
of a young country, which has hitherto produced no
really great poet, and whose poetry in many cases has
not extended beyond mediocrity, is, I think, not only
desirable but essential. The present volume is there-
fore an attempt to collect and arrange such. The
object has been to make a selection from a selection;
in short, to give, as far as material would allow, true
and faithful specimens of the best which our poetical
writers have hitherto given us. Such a selection —
which, I trust, will merit the name of a "Treasury" —
does, I hope, no injustice to the authors who have
already published their poems in book form; on the
contrary, I hope that it may tend to popularize their
works still more, by directing more attention to them,
and thereby stimulating a desire to possess complete
editions. It also fulfils the useful purpose of saving
perhaps from oblivion some gem or worthy song
which would otherwise lie forgotten in dry-as-dust
pages of old Cape magazines or journals.



xvi INTRODUCTION.

It is hoped that a selection like this will have the
desirable effect of stimulating- and fostering- the too
latent taste in the young colonial mind for the best in
poetry which his country has hitherto produced, or may
ultimately produce.

Certain it is that no country should oftener pause in
its ardent materialistic pursuits to find in poetry that
relief and support in its strenuous life, than South
Africa. We cannot be too often reminded of Matthew
Arnold's assurance, that " more and more mankind will
discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life
for us, to console us, to sustain us." That is a duty
we owe to ourselves. True, South African poetry at
present may not be able to satisfy this demand in its
entirety. "The breath and finer spirit" are often
wanting, but "the light that never was on land or
sea" — the poet's dream — has been felt, and is striving
for utterance. Whether the voice will be a lasting one
depends largely upon the demand made by the people.
They have, consciously or unconsciously, the destiny of
the poetry of the future in their hands. Given sym-
pathy, and a high standard demanded, the poet's lyre
will respond; ignored, stifled — the result will be silence,
possibly death, and the loss South African.

Then again, it is felt that there is a large and grow-
ing field of readers across the water who, interested
probably by ties of kinship, would welcome a volume of
verse resonant of the voices and sentiments of those
living under Southern skies. To them, such a selection



INTRODUCTION. xvii

as the present one may prove both Interesting" and
valuable. It would be interesting by reason of reflect-
ing" what 1 mig"ht term the /ocal colour, with all its
brilliancy and uniqueness — those specially distinctive
features of South African scenery, as shown in its
grand and rugged mountains, boundless karoo, and
rolling veldt ; it would be valuable by reason of rescu-
ing its native folk-lore and legend from oblivion, and
weaving around them the glamour of song, as has
been done in Australia by Adam Lindsay Gordon and
Kendall, and in America by Longfellow and Bryant.
\ In compiling the present volume from a very scattered
field of fugitive and other poetry — in some cases going
back to the days of the British settlers — the length of
the poem has been one of the determining factors, and
some poems have thus regretfully had to be omitted.
War poems, martial lays, and to a certain extent
religious poems have also been largely excluded ; the
former entirely so, on account of their diction or
rougher form setting ill amongst the necessarily more
musical lyric, or even sonnet. The latter class, how-
ever, possessing all the essential qualifications of
devotional verse, has been relegated to a place at the
end of the volume.

Lest the word "Treasury" should to some appear
suggestive of claiming a position for the volume
analogous to that of Palgrave's incomparable and
unique selection, let me say at once such an idea
surely could never be seriously entertained. To the



xviii INTRODUCTION.

literature glorifying" a thousand j'ears, "the idle
singers of an empty day" here would be the first to
do homage. Still, it is hoped and believed that in the
fairer and more just comparison with the productions
of such sister colonies as New Zealand, Australia, and
even Canada, it will be found that relatively South
Africa compares not unfavourably, despite the fact— a
very vital one, too — that these colonies have (with
the one exception) been favoured in possessing from
their earliest history more uniformity of language,
g'reater sympathy between the various sections of its
peoples, and above all, fortunate in the experience
of a calmer flow in their historic annals, which has
rendered possible — nay, even fostered that mental and
social condition, that finer spirit of harmony and feeling
from which the loftiest song is always born.

E. H. CROUCH.

July ic,07.



NOTE.

Mv hearty thnnks are due to the authors whose full names

appear in the Contents, for permission so readily and

courteously granted to include some of their poems in this

collection. Also to that pioneer in Cape anthology, the Hon.

A. Wilmot, M.L.A. ; to Messrs. Juta >.\: Co., T. Maskew Miller,

Thompson iS: Co., Macmillan i!\; Co., T. Fisher Unwin, William

Blackwood >S: Sons, Elliot vStock, Longmans, Green & Co., and

Sampson Low, Marston & Co., for permission to make use of

scattered verse which has either appeared in periodicals or

books published by them. There are others whose address

is untraceable, by reason of their attaching their initials or a

noiii dc plitvie to their compositions ; to all such I trust this

acknowledgment of indebtedness will suffice.

E. H. C.



'. . . O Africa! long lost in night,
Upon the horizon gleams the light
Of breaking dawn. . . .
Thy name has been slave of the world,
But when thy banner is unfurl'd,
Triumphant Liberty shall wave
Its standard o'er foul slavery's grave ;
And earth— decaying earth — shall see
Her freest, fairest child in thee." — Thomson.



A Treasury of South African
Poetry and Verse,

THE VOORLOOPERS.

They hasten to their heritage,

The guerdon of their days,
To labour long and wearily

For scanty gold or praise;
To toil unseen and overmuch,

And if their meed be fame.
To carve themselves an epitaph

To mark their place and name.

They hasten to their heritage,

The right to bridge and build,
To serve among the journeymen,

To suffer with the guild ;
To plan the work, and found it fair,

And, ere 'tis gable high,
To pass the trowel to the next.

And turn aside to die.

They hasten to their heritage.

The tender and the tried ;
Each tide beholds them outward bound,

God wot, the field is wide.



PERCEVAL GIBBON.

They bring' the best of heart and hand,
Of blood, and breed, and birth;

Their graves upon our frontiers He,
To testify their worth.

They hasten to their heritage.

The feeble and the fain ;
They bring the best of youth and hope,

To garner age and pain,
To glean the dole of little thanks.

To suffer and be dumb ;
To die when duty names the man —

And still their cohorts come.

Perceval Gibbon.



PERCEVAL GIBBON.



MIMOSA.

The bloom of the mimosa

Between your lips and me,
Withholds you like a lattice

Of golden filigree.

The thorns of the mimosa,
Between your breast and me,

Are like the blades of vengeance
That guard the Eden tree.

The breach in the mimosa.

That gives your lips to me.
Is like the breath of blessing

That sets the spirit free.

The scent of the mimosa,

That rains on you and me,
Is like a dear remembrance

Of bliss that used to be.

Pcrccvdl Gibbon.



PERCEVAL GIBBON.



THE VELDT.

Cast the window wider, sonny,
Let me see the veldt.
Rolling" grandly to the sunset.
Where the mountains melt,
With the sharp horizon round it,
Like a silver belt.

Vears and years I've trekked across it.

Ridden back and fore,

Till the silence and the g-lamour

Ruled me to the core;

No man ever knew it better,

None could love it more.

There's a balm for crippled sipirits

In the open view,

Running from your very footsteps

Out into the blue ;

Like a wag^on-track to heaven,

Straight 'twixt God and you.

There's a magic, soul-compelling.
In the boundless space.
And it grows upon you, sonny,
Like a woman's face —
Passionate and pale and tender.
With a marble errace.



PERCEVAL GIBBON.

There's the sum of all religion

In its mig'htiness ;

Wing-ed truths, beyond your doubting,

Close about you press.

God is greater in the open —

Little man is less.

There's a voice pervades its stillness.

Wonderful and clear;

Tongues of prophets and of angels,

Whispering far and near.

Speak an everlasting gospel

To the spirit's ear.

There's a sense you gather, sonny.

In the open air;

Shift your burden ere it break you:

God will take His share.

Keep your end up for your own sake ;

All the rest's His care.

There's a promise, if you need it.

For the time to come ;

All the veldt is loud and vocal

Where the Bible's dumb.

Heaven is paved with gold for parsons.

But it's grassed for some.

There's a spot I know of, sonny,
Yonder by the stream ;
Bushes handy for the fire,
Water for the team.
By the old home outspan, sonny.
Let me lie and dream.

Perceval Gibbon.



PERCEVAL GIBBON.



VOICES OF THE VELDT.

Land! I will show you land; mile upon mile

Of ridge and kopje, bush and candid waste,

Sun-drowned and empty, tacit as the sea.

Belted about with the horizon line.

And over all the blank and curving sky.

Is it not still? And with the sacred calm

Of cool church shadows, where one speaks and moves

As though God spied upon one ; and all things —

Trespassing sunbeams, spiders, swarming^ motes,

The profile of a woman at her prayers,

The tang that rules the sermon, one's own thoughts —

Go bowed below a dread significance.

You know the feeling; but the veldt, my veldt.

Is more than any church, more vastly still

Than grey cathedrals drowsing down the years,

More fraught with solemn meanings' and dim dreams,

Than any storied hive of shaveling saints.

Still, did I say? Well, still it surely is,

And yet it hath a voice, its mood of sound,

As prophets, meanly meditating, start

From torpor into fired utterance.

On its occasion it will speak in tones

That thundered first of all on Sinai.

The voice of all the world and all the sky

Poured through the tempest-trumpet, and, between

The drum of sullen strength and passion's shrill.

Riding above the thunder and the wind.

There comes at last the still small voice of God.



PERCEVAL GIBBON.

And it will speak sometimes, far off and clear,

Aloof, unflushed, ungilded, calm, superb.

The voice of angels at the judgment-seat.

Impartial, cold exponents of the law.

And then it chants! O morning- stars in song,

O hills in choir triumphant, ringing earth,

And dome of shuddering echoes, hush and hear!

It has the anthem laid upon its lips

Which all creation sang at the seventh dawn,

And God heard, smiling, saying: " It is good."

And in wild breezes, ere the timid spring

Quite flings her draperies apart, and dares

Her naked foot of blessing on the turf.

Her naked breast of promise on the air,

It pipes, like that goat-footed god of Greece

Beside his stream, pillowed on life itself.

And sometimes like the potent piper, who

Charmed hell to hush its dreary agony.

Perceval Gibbon.



PERCEVAL GIBBON.



KOMANI.

Runs Komani ever?
Weep the willows still ?
Gleam the grass-fires nightly
Wreathed upon the hill ?
Comes the summer singing?
Tiptoes yet the spring ?
Tell me of Komani —
Tell me everything.

For yonder by Komani

I left my lady fair,

Who smiled for ever under

Her aureole of hair —

Smiled and would not hearken,

Heard and would not smile.

I turned me from Komani

A long and weary while.

Often by Komani
I heard my lady's name
Amid the tinkling ripples.
And is it still the same ?
Or goes Komani voiceless
Where music used to be,
Forgetful of my lady.
As once she was of me.

Perceval Gibbon.



PERCEVAL GIBBON.



JIM.

(an incident.)

From the Kei to Umzimkulu

We chartered to ride,
But before we reached Umtata

Jim turned in and died.
By Bashee I buried Jim.
Ah! but I was fond of him;
An' but for the niggers grinning,

I'd — yes, I'd have cried.

'Twas a weary trek through Griqualand,

And me all alone ;
Three teams and a dozen niggers

To boss on my own.
And I felt a need for Jim ;
It was just the job for him,
Hazin' the teams and the niggers.

Hard grit to the bone.

I lost a load at Kokstad :

An axle fell through ;
I hadn't heart to tinker it,

So pushed on with two.
If I'd only had old Jim !
Axles never broke with him;
But I never could handle waggons

Like Jim used to do.



PERCEVAT, GIBBON.

I came to Umzimkulu

With a pain in my head ;
I ought to ha' bought med'cine,

But I Hquored instead:
Never used to drink with Jim ;
There's a girl that asked for him ;
But the jackals root at Bashee —

An' Jim, he's dead !

Perceval Gibbon.



W. E. HUNTER.



THE NIGHTINGALE.

Hearken ! 'tis the Nightingale
O'er the silence doth prevail,
Ravishing- the listening- air
With his solo rich and clear,
With his exquisite delig-ht
Thrilling- all the heart of night.
Surely naught akin to pain
Is the theme of such a strain :
Only love's divinest treasure.
Only love's unshadowed pleasure
Can give birth to such a measure ;
Love, without its care and pain.
Such as others seek in vain.
Surely is this creature's g-ain !
Love we dream of, pining-, yearning-.
To be lost within its burning- !

The mysterious music falls
Now at wayward intervals :
Now a rivulet of song, ^
As from springes of Helicon,
Through the darkness bubbles on —
Bubbles throug-h the breathless air
In notes so full, so rich, so clear,
Ang-els loan from heaven to hear,
Lean until their listening faces
Light the interstellar spaces,



W. E. HUNTER.

As they whisper their surmise :

" 'Tis a sister in disguise,

Singing- for the world's deHght,

The cantata she, by right,

Should have sung in Heaven to-night."

Now the witching rhythm flows

Softly to a perfect close,

In severed notes that drowse and swoon.

If for ever, ah, too soon !

And we sigh the song should be

So fugitive, when suddenly

A swift, aerial round

Of voluptuous, throbbing sound

Flows again in wild delight

Through the enamoured hush of night,

On and on, as if to drain

His heart of music in one strain

The bird, if bird it be, were fain.

'Tis a bird, and nothing more,

With one song, his only store,

And he repeats it o'er and o'er

To be more perfect than before.

But that bird in heavenly spheres,

Singing to angelic ears,

That did never suffer wound

From a false discordant sound.

For his singing would be crowned.

A pause — and now the vale is full
Of intermittent, musical
Trills of rapture, beautiful !
Rippling in the dreamy sky.
How they flow, and ebb, and die I



W. E. HUNTER. 13

How they revel, toy and tarry,

Falter with the bliss they carry !

Tremble, with excess of gladness.

On the narrow brink of sadness !

Till the serenade appears

But to bubble up through tears ;

And the music's tender stress

Yields ag"ain to silentness :

And the artful bird capricious,

In a reverie delicious.

Mute upon the star-lit spray,

Meditates his winsome lay:

Or, perchance, 'twere sooth to say,

He pauses to rejoice,

And marvel at his matchless voice.

And so awhile forgets to sing"

For his own music listening :

And hence the hush, while leaf and wing,

Shadow, starlight, everything-.

In this mystical recess

Amid the hills is motionless.

Lest the timid creature hear.

Rise and vanish into air ;

Nor thereafter dare nor deign.

Here to fold his wings again.

Ah, their vigil is not vain !
Hark ! the music falls like rain,
When in heaven's bright abyss,
One lone cloud and no wind is.
So waywardly, so tenderly.
Note by note the melody
On th' absorbing silence falls



14 W. E. HUNTER.

At divinest intervals,

Wherein bird and music seem

The creation of some dream.

Oh, but hearken ! clear and strong

Again the swift notes throb and throng,

Rejoicing in a rush of song.

Sweet and passionate above

All that words can tell of love.

Flowing on and on, as tho'

It would never cease to flow.

For the singer, in his gladness.

Sings himself to very madness.

And, to share his heart's delight

With all around, would flood the night

With music, as the perfect moon

Floods it with her stintless boon

Of splendour, when she hovers bright.

Pure and naked in the height

Of heaven's dome of crystallite.

But not the minstrel's utmost art

Can fully to the world impart

The song he sings within his heart;

And here, here too, the real

Reaches not its dream-ideal ;

And the bird, so long o'erwrought

By incommunicable thought,

Yearns, until his voice is fraught

With sobs and tears and notes that wane,

And the wild impassioned strain

Dies away, nor wakes again.

JV. E. Hunter.



W. E. HUNTER. 15



WRITTEN ON RECOVERY FROM
SICKNESS, 1906.

How dreamlike, strange, is this

Reprieve to happiness

And life ! to sit at ease

In comfort of green trees!

And marvelling hear

Thrush and blackbird piping near ;

Whilst, thro' every passive sense.

Creeps a healing influence.

That, baptizing heart and brain.

Renews and makes me whole again !

No more, like one for whom

There is nor light nor gloom,

Silence nor sound,

His sleep is so profound,

I lie, in seeming rest.

With hands prayer-folded on my breasit,

Silent, as slow nights and days

Pass on undistinguished ways.

Silent, tho' my heart made moan,

Sadly to herself alone.

Saying, " Now, dissolves the snow;"

Saying, " Now, the violets blow; —

Ah, when I am laid more low,

They will blow more close to me.

Closer still and I not see,



i6 W. E. HUNTER.

Not know." —

But lo!

I wile away

Once again a summer's day,

In this pleasant sylvan place,

Where the alders interlace

Their boughs above me, and the blue

Bells and flowers of purple hue

Make beautiful the lone recess

With glamour of their loveliness.

— Nature for herself against
All the world this valley fenced.
For her own delight she wrought
In sculpture her poetic thought:
Then she breathed upon it, till
It breathed to her again, and rill
And herb and flower returned the smile
Of love, that lit her face the while.
How beautiful it is! How meet.
For the solace of retreat !
Guardian hills have charge to keep
Watch around it, steep on steep,
Save, to westward, where a space
Opens in their green embrace.
And, behind, the ocean paves
The chasm with protecting waves.

Thro' the tranquil, sylvan valley
Toys a streamlet musically;
All too happy to haste on,
Such sweet themes it dwells upon,



W. E. HUNTER. 17

With a low and inward voice
To itself it doth rejoice ;
And the little sedge-birds sit
In the reeds and hark to it;
And from banks of mossy green,
Flowers that love it droop and lean,
As it lingers, winds, and wanders


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Online LibraryEdward Heath CrouchA treasury of South African poetry and verse → online text (page 1 of 10)